Restoring The Roar (Conclusion)

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: August 20, 2008

Lupa LionPHILADELPHIA — During my recent visit to the sprawling Lincoln University campus, it was pretty due to graduation the week before, but rest assured the fall of 2008 will bring back the sights, sounds, smiles, and good-tidings that distinctly make up HBCU football.

The environment around Lincoln University should definitely be festive and enthusiastic, as the team has received a strong commitment from the university especially from Lincoln University President Ivory V. Nelson, who knows a thing or two about HBCU football from his college days at Grambling State.

The Lions return to the gridiron is so massive that acclaimed football storytelling entity NFL Films has taken an interest with anticipated fall 2008 piece. Hopefully the rekindling of the proud football tradition at Lincoln University (Pa.) will also revitalize a campus and community that has not been part of HBCU football for over four decades.

In talking with Lincoln’s Sports Information Director Rob Knox, the athletic department is expecting 50 plus eager young men on this year’s squad. The young new Lions along with their “Orange Crush” Roaring Lions Marching Band expect to “Restore the Roar” to this sleeping HBCU football giant. Current Lincoln University quarterback Andre Palmer recently said of the football team’s revitalization, “It’s a blessing” and he truly is right.

Lincoln legend Frank “Tick” Coleman, who for years tried to persuade alumni, administrators, and faculty to get onboard with bringing back football said of the revival, ” I’m excited about the football team and what it means to our students and alumni”. Mr. Lincoln University added, “Football is such an important part of the college experience especially at historically black colleges. I can’t wait for our first football game”.

Timeline of Lincoln University Football

  • 1854 – Lincoln University (Pa.) is founded as Ashmun Institute by Rev. John Miller Dickey, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson (a Quaker) and named after Jehudi Ashmum, a religious leader and social reformer
  • 1865 – The Civil War ends with General Lee surrendering to General Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9
  • 1866 – Ashmun Institute is renamed “Lincoln University” after the death of President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865
  • 1869 – On November 6, Northeastern predominantly white universities Rutgers and Princeton play the first organized football game ever on
  • 1892 - On November 23, 1892 (Thanksgiving), the first organized football game between two predominantly African American teams is played by southern schools Biddle (Later Johnson C. Smith) and Livingstone on a rainy afternoon. Biddle wins the game by a score of 4-0, however the game was largely unnoticed except for the sparse crowd in attendance.
  • 1894 – In November, Mid-Atlantic schools Lincoln University (PA) and friendly rival school Howard University of Washington DC become the first two African American schools to play organized football in the North with the Lincoln Lions winning by a score of 6-5 over the Howard Bison.
  • 1909 – Howard beats Lincoln 5-0 marking their first win over the Lions. Lincoln had won in 1894, 1895, 1904, 1905, 1906, and 1907. the 1908 game was a scoreless 0-0 tie.
  • 1912 - Hampton Institute administrator Ernest Jones Marshall introduces Lincoln, Hampton, Howard, Shaw, and Virginia Union as charter members of the groundbreaking CIAA Conference (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, formerly the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association — the first and oldest HBCU conference).
  • 1919 – Before a frenzied Thanksgiving Day crowd Lincoln and Howard play to a score tie in front of 18,000 fans in the National League Park in Philadelphia.
  • 1924 - Led by back Alfred “Jazz” Byrd Lincoln wins its third and final CIAA championship (1918, 1919, and 1924). The 1924team was is named by Paul W.L. Jones of the Colored Industrial School of Cincinnati as the National Negro Football Champs in the East.
  • 1926 - October of 1926, Lincoln University almost stops Tuskegee’s claim to the mythical black college football national championship by narrowly losing 20-16 at Franklin Field before 35,000 fans including football legend Red Grange.
  • 1926 – On November 26th 1926, Howard celebrates the opening of their new on-campus stadium by playing Lincoln in their annual rivalry game. It was reported that there were 28,000 in attendance , but some accounts have hundreds more watching from a close proximity. Howard wins the game 32-0. The large crowd sets the stage for future games at larger venues like Shibe Park, Atlantic City Convention Center (indoor), and Griffith Stadium. The win also marks the last of Howard’s National Black College football championships (1920, 1925, and 1926).
  • 1937 – A tradition is started where the Lincoln football family ends the season by coming together for an annual Testimonial Banquet given by the Alumni Association at McCauley Refectory. The banquet serves as a way to reflect on the season past including presenting honors, but most importantly the event provides an opportunity for a farewell to the team’s senior leaders. Each senior had the opportunity to stand and address their brothers on the gridiron for the last time about “What Lincoln football meant to them”.
  • 1946 – In December, Led by quarterback Robert “Duck” Cooper Lincoln defeats the Florida A&M Rattlers 20-14 in the 14th Annual Orange Blossom Classic in Tampa, Florida. The 1946 squad is considered a contender for the mythical black college football championship that is eventually won by powerful Morgan State, which had defeated the Lions 35-0 in the first game of the season.
  • 1957 – After noticing a drop in overall enrollment and some student apathy toward the football team, Lincoln University administrators start talks of dropping the football team.
  • 1959 – The Lincoln University Board of Trustees approves a recommendation to drop football after the 1960 season.
  • 1960 – In November 1960, Lincoln plays its last game for 40 years as it loses 34-13 to rival Howard. As of 1960 when Lincoln last played the rivalry was almost knotted at Howard 24, Lincoln 23, and six ties. Lincoln’s overall record stands at 163 wins, 166 losses, and seven ties at the time of the team disbanding
  • 1981 – Lincoln former quarterback and Legend Frank “Tick” Coleman starts efforts to raise money to bring back the football team.
  • 1982 – Fueled by a HBCU Classic game played at Franklin Field in Philadelphia between Howard and Cheyney State, Tick Coleman tries again to invigorate talks of returning to the gridiron. However the only football games played on campus are in the competitive intramural touch football leagues.
  • 2006 – After receiving positive feedback from a university led feasibility study, on April 11th Lincoln’s Board of Trustees votes to revive the football program and establishes Marching and Pep Bands. Lincoln University also successfully petitions for membership in the CIAA, of which they were a founding member in 1912.
  • 2007 - On August 9th, Lincoln University names Olabaniji Abanishe (pronounced ah-bon-EE-shay) as its head football coach. Abanishe brings nine years of coaching experience to Lincoln, including four years at his alma mater Langston University in Oklahoma.
  • 2008 – On Saturday April 5, the Blue-and-Orange spring football game is played for the first time since 1960 at Avon Grove High School.
  • 2008 – On August 30th, Lincoln University’s football team will return to the field for the first time in 48 years as they host George Mason at Avon Grove High School.